Women succeed after local training program

November 27, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Sam didn’t expect to make $40,000 plus a year by Christmas 2018, but she does. The first day she entered the Step Up for Women Manufacturing Pre-Apprenticeship Program in June of 2017, she was quiet and unsure of herself. She was working less than forty hours per week helping people with disabilities and had a newborn at home. She had recently split up with her husband and now had four young children to take care of on her own.

“I knew I had to do something for my children - something to better myself,” Sam says of her decision to apply for the class after seeing an ad on Facebook.

Sam walked into class that first day unsure of what she had gotten herself into, but she quickly learned she excelled at mechanical skills. “Sam was our best machining student that summer,” comments Rick Smoot, Robert C Byrd Institute instructor.

Sam now comes back to the class to mentor other students.

“Anything I can do to help out the program, I will,” says Sam, “I wouldn’t have any of this today if it wasn’t for you all.”

Her success is amazing, but she’s not the only graduate of Step Up to find work she enjoys. Since it started in June of 2016, the manufacturing program has graduated dozens of women with about 80 percent entering employment within six weeks. Most graduates make $12 per hour when they start their new jobs, though some make as much as $16 per hour. These newly employed women can expect raises and benefits during their first year as well.

“Most of my employed graduates see around a dollar per hour raise in the first year - sometimes more - with benefits like medical and retirement,” explains Melinda Perron, the program coordinator for Step Up. Perron runs two manufacturing training programs per year out of Huntington’s Robert C. Byrd Institute on 4th Avenue.

“The program was created by West Virginia Women Work, a nonprofit that gets women in great jobs throughout the state. I started in February 2016 when we expanded in Huntington. Since then, this program’s success has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Last year, we even secured funding to open a second manufacturing training program in Bridgeport,” comments Perron. West Virginia Women Work runs the program with support from the Robert C. Byrd Institute and various grants including one from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Perron’s sixth Step Up class is set to begin on January 7 and last until March 22. Students will meet on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday to receive hands-on instruction in advanced manufacturing. Interested women should call Perron at 304-528-9991 or visit the program’s website at wvwomenwork.org/stepupamp. Perron urges women to apply ASAP, “We accept students as applications come in, so I plan to be done accepting students by Christmas.”

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